A Displaced Cost of War: The Statelessness of Vietnamese Amerasians
CitationPham, Hauyen. 2019. A Displaced Cost of War: The Statelessness of Vietnamese Amerasians. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis thesis focuses on the plight of Vietnamese Amerasians, the mixed children of American soldiers born during the United States’ active involvement with Vietnam from 1954 until the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973. Labeled as “Dust of Life,” and “half-breeds,” the Vietnamese Amerasian identity is defined by Vietnamese and American attitudes toward them. Vietnamese Amerasians have always been caught between the politics of the country they were born in, their motherland, and the country they now called home, their fatherland. This study brings attention to the marginalization of Vietnamese Amerasians living in the U.S. Nearly fifty years since American forces left Vietnam, once again, their mixed-race children must face rejection by both Vietnam and the U.S. In particular, those Vietnamese Amerasians entrapped with U.S. immigration authority after their involvement with the U.S. criminal justice system. They are Vietnamese Amerasians facing removal from the U.S. Unable to prove their nationality as Vietnamese or American, these now adult children of the Vietnam War are effectively stateless.
This research aims to bring attention to a pattern of legal displacement faced by mixed-race children of foreign military personnel and to expose a lasting human cost of war. Despite numerous writings and studies on the Vietnam War, not much attention is given to this group of casualties. These children of war were left to fend for themselves. As adults, Vietnamese Amerasians living in the U.S. continue to struggle for acceptance. I will explore the current discussions and research that touch upon the fundamental issues of punishment, families, and statelessness. The deportation of these individuals presents a contradiction to the conditions under which they were welcomed into the U.S., their fatherland. Operation Babylift in April of 1975, the Orderly Departure Program (ODP) of 1979, and the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1987 were different actions taken by the U.S. government to evacuate Vietnamese Amerasian children who were considered persons of particular humanitarian concern to the U.S. Presently, Vietnamese Amerasians facing removal and being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), are neither protected by the U.S. or wanted by Vietnam. Thus, this research is significant because it explores the mixed attitude America has towards the foreign offspring of its soldiers and sheds light on a residual damage of the Vietnam War.
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